The purpose of those somewhat lengthy passages was to try to do something other than produce a long list of cherry-picked quotations which prove nothing to those not already convinced.

Geoffrey Sales has raised the issue I am long familiar with, and done so in an interesting way. There is no doubt that the powers of binding and loosing were given to all the Apostles; every Catholic should be happy to say that. But it was Peter who was the Rock, Peter who is at the head of the name-lists, Peter who was regarded by the Fathers as in some way special. Geoffrey, rather ingeniously in my view, adapts the Orthodox argument – that is that all the Apostles inherit the same position – to his own Baptist church. I’ve not heard that done before, and it is a sign of the supple and independent nature of Baptists that an elder can come up with it. But let me try to outline why neither it, nor the Orthodox original, will quite do.

Let me say up front that this is about what a primacy of honour means – a road we’ve been down here before. The last few posts have established that the ancient Church felt that Rome was the place where you went when vexed questions arose. If we are fair, we will surely acknowledge that that was not in the way some Catholic apologists suggest – that is with the Pope as the driving force. It was more complex and more collegial, but there was order. Does anyone think Christ mandated confusion?

In his first letter to the Corinthians St. Paul writes clearly, “for God is not a God of confusion [ἀκαταστασίας — disorder] but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints.” (1 Cor. 14:33) A few verses later he writes: “But all things must be done properly and in an orderly [τάξιν] manner.” (1 Cor 14:40) To see only confusion on the day of Pentecost and in the early Church is to miss the clear evidence that Christ gave authority to His Apostles, and that they authorised others to succeed them in governing and teaching the particular Churches so that all things would be done in an orderly manner, and that there was an established means by which the unity and peace of the Church would be preserved.

Geoffrey, like the Orthodox, argue that “a consensus emerges’; really? A consensus did not emerge among the conjunction of those following the decision of the Council of Nicea and those following Arius. The magisterial decision against the Arians forced the Arians out of the visible Church, and thus did not allow Arianism to be even a “branch within” the Church. A consensus did not emerge between Catholics and Marcionites; rather, the magisterial decision by the Church of Rome forced the Marcionites out of the visible Church, and again did not allow Marcionism to be a “branch within” the Church. And so on, with all the heresies throughout Church history.

If we In the end it turns on Christ’s words. He said that Peter was the Rock on which His Church would be built. The usual Protestant quibbles seem to me unworthy of intelligent men and women. Christ’s words mean something, and they cannot be qubbled away.

The Pope Emeritus was keen to explore how the primacy could be understood in a way which did justice to the traditions of the ancient Church. But Rome cannot talk to itself – even if it has too often sounded like it is doing just that. Other Christians need to divine the word of God in St. Matthew’s passage – not explain it away.